Hold in the hollow of your palm

Saturday evening, after dinner. Listening to Yo Yo Ma playing Ennio Morricone’s rapturous compositions for the cello. Jonquils from this morning’s market filling the house with their fragrance. The dog patently losing her inward moral struggle to observe our ‘no barking in the house’ rule. Like so many winter Saturdays, this one was lovely but brief. Just enough daylight for a walk and the washing; the rosy dusk made melancholy by the thought that Monday comes quicker in the winter. Like so many Saturdays, I’m trying to find something to peg a poem to, but often there’s nothing in particular. Perhaps after all a poem should be its own occasion. This one, ‘Carapace’, is the last in my Selected Poems of Gwen Harwood, which happens to be on top of the pile of books at my elbow. I find it beautiful. I like the way the shape of it feels like the curve of a tide. In a small way it fits the sense of flux brought by an ordinary Saturday in winter. (In case you don’t know, a carapace is “the dorsal section of the exoskeleton of an arthropod or vertebrate.”) Enjoy.

Hold in the hollow of your palm
this carapace so delicate
one breath would send it spinning down,
yet strong enough to bear the stress 
of ebb, flow, metamorphosis
from skin to shell.
Seasons have scoured 
this beautiful abandoned house
from which are gone eyes, sinews, all
taken-for-granted gifts.
I hold
in my unhoused continuing self
the memory that is wisdom’s price
for what survives and grows beneath 
old skies, old stars.
Fresh mornings rim
the carapace of night with gold.
The sandgrains shine, the rockpools brim
with tides that bring and bear away
new healing images of day.

In the relic darkness of sleep and love

Here's one of my favourite Australian poets, Gwen Harwood, with a poem called “Triste, Triste,” which I think roughly translated means something like “sad, sad.” This one has a paschal flavour, because I forgot to post any one of the great number of good Easter poems last Friday. 

In the space between love and sleep
when heart mourns in its prison
eyes against shoulder keep
their blood-black curtains tight.
Body rolls back like a stone, and risen
spirit walks to Easter light;

away from its tomb of bone,
away from the guardian tents
of eyesight, walking alone
to unbearable light with angelic
gestures. The fallen instruments
of its passion lie in the relic

darkness of sleep and love.
And heart from its prison cries
to the spirit walking above
'I was with you in agony.
Remember your promise of paradise,'
and hammers and hammers, 'Remember me.'

So the loved other is held
for mortal comfort, and taken,
And the spirit's light dispelled
as it falls from its dream to the deep
to harrow heart's prison so heart may waken
to peace in the paradise of sleep.